Sorry about the delay. Updates will still be scarce for awhile, as will I.
#16 Lionel: Regular and Orderly in Life
: May I help you, sir?
: Yes, please. I would like to reserve some seats.
: I can help you with that, sir. But first, company rules require that I ask you the following questions. Answer honestly, your safety and the safety of those who travel with you will depend upon it.
: Are you, or is any member of your party, a practitioner of magick, elven, or of elven heritage?
: What best describes the most magickal member of your party?
: We do not practice magick.
: Are you carrying any magickal items? Have been approached and asked to carry any magickal items by people not traveling with your group?
: Which of the following category best describes your physical age? A - Less than 100 years old. B -100 to 200 years old. C - 200 to 500, D-more than 500 years of age.
: Less than 100 years old.
: Are you traveling with summoned elementals, animated dead, mind controlled, turned to stone, or otherwise physically challenged party members who will need some additional time and assistance in boarding the Train.
: Do you have either knowledge and practice, or enscrolled parchments, or charged magickal items with any of the following Magickal spells; Fireflash, Body of Fire, Call Fire Elemental, Jolt, Bolt of Lightning, Disintegrate, Congeal Time, Stasis, Hasten, or Tempus Fugit?
: Thank you for answering these questions. You're eligible for reservations in the First Class compartments. Would you like to make your reservations now?
: Thank you, yes. I would like to reserve some seats for Black Root.
: Reserved seats cost 75 coins each. How many seats will you require for your group?
: [His face pales.] I… I'm sorry, I thought the rate to Black Root was 50?
: Rates were increased two weeks ago to compensate for the recent change in tax law. Do you still want to reserve the seats?
: Not at the moment. Sorry to take your time.
: Not at all. Thank you for your patronage. Please come again. Next, please!
Lionel and Jayna walk slowly out of the station, respectively dejected and concerned.
: Are you sure we can't afford the tickets?
: Not after all that shopping today. Leather is expensive. We've got just over a hundred coin to spend right now.
: But, wait— how were we going to get back?
: Oh, well, there's a, erm, job I'd heard of near the mine at Shrouded Hills. Pays rather well.
: What job?
: It's, ah, not important now. It looks like we'll just have to walk.
: [Jayna's face falls.] Oh, but I was so excited about the train... Are you sure? Couldn't we look for a bit of work here? Even if it takes a day or two, we'll get there much sooner than if we walk.
: [His mind still on the morning headline, he grimaces.] Yes, of course. What a good idea. [He sighs.] Well, as we're staying in town for the moment, what would you like to see now?
: What about the University? I've heard great things about it.
: Right you are, Jayna. This way.
The two amateur technologists take the steamrail to the great, sprawling campus of Tarant University. A few of the buildings are open to visitors, though there's little enough inside to interest most citizens. Lionel has been there several times for public lectures and, in years long past, spent many apprehensive evenings prowling its alleys. He shows Jayna the empty public lecture hall, where such great minds as Hieronymus Maxim and Margolius Sen have for decades presented the fruit of their toils to the scientific community of Tarant. They then proceed to the museum of zoology and natural philosophy, where Jayna marveled at a display of draconic paraphernalia from the ongoing excavation at the last resting place of Bellerogrim, the last of the great dragons. She read the plaques with the careful solemnity of an Archaeonic scholar, taking notes in a small diary.
Watching her, Lionel began to relax. There was no mention of a half-orc in the newspaper, after all. It went on at some length about ogres in strange machines. He hadn't seen anything of the kind in his lower berth, but he was prepared to bet that this elf had simply been too ignorant of technology to give an adequate description. Whatever the case, it seemed that no one would be looking for him in connection with the crash.
At Jayna's insistence, they proceeded to the university's great library. Lionel braced himself, adjusted his jacket, and walked in with all the quiet dignity he could muster, but was still met with precisely the treatment he remembered from the librarian.
: Pardon me, sir, but do you have a membership?
: [Sighing] No, unfortunately I do not.
: All of our scholarly patrons have memberships. The Library of Tarant requires membership for anyone who wishes to read our volumes. We find it keeps out the... bad element.
: [Smiling brightly] What can you tell us of your facility?
: This is the great Library of Tarant. It was created 60 years ago when the King chose to make his extensive library available to the public.
: Tarant has a King? I thought this was an oligarchy.
: Tarant no longer has a king. The tale is a heartbreaking one. Some would say that when technology began to come into power, it was the King's desire to industrialize Tarant slowly. Others thought the King was holding technology back from the people. Though the kingdom was thriving, the royal court was in turmoil.
: Go on...
: The League of Gnomish Merchants was gaining power rapidly. One day, the King was found dead. The Queen and the Prince were missing. Having no heirs, the royal court was disbanded and the Gnomish Merchants Guild took control.
: A sad tale indeed. What was this about a membership?
: [She looks from Lionel to Jayna, taking in her leather armor, and shakes her head.] Must we continue this charade? It must be obvious to you that this is not your element. The pub is located right down the street. [Jayna gasps. Lionel's knuckles whiten.]
: Look, please just tell us how much a membership is.
: [She smiles.] A lifetime membership costs a mere 5000 coins. [Jayna makes a soft choking sound.]
: We are interested in a membership.
: [Both the librarian and Jayna goggle at him.] Really!? Oh my...
: Yes, but not at this time. We shall return later, madam. Thank you for your agreeable service. [He turns and strides out through the door, Jayna at his heels.]
: I can't believe she...
: Oh, she's always been that way. I'll tell you, though, if I ever have the coin for a membership...
: But I thought the library was free for public use?
: Oh, it is. The general collection, anyway. But you can only check books out with a membership. Otherwise, you just have read in the library and be prepared to suffer her scowling and pestering.
Lionel decides not to mention that his own previous visits often ended with threats of calling in the guard. It hardly seems prudent, as he suspects that Jayna will not be accused of “soiling” the books.
: Oh, is that all? Well, it still doesn't seem fair...
: Never mind. How would you like to see the university's bookstore?
: That sounds lovely. Let's.
They proceed to a public lounge at the end of the university court that contains several faculty offices and the bookstore. Jayna pick over the selection and comments on the outrageous prices that students must somehow scrape together. Lionel, for his part, gives one word answers. He is feeling rather self-conscious after his treatment in the library, and considers how he may regain lost face. On their way out of the building, a portly gnome calls out to him.
: Hoy there, hideous! How about some honest work, if the concept's familiar to you?
: [Lionel turns to Jayna, whose expression is darkening.] Excuse me a moment. [He walks over to the gnome. Standing directly in front of him, he leans low and looks down even further, his hands in his coat pockets. His voice is low enough that only the gnome can hear him, and remains perfectly steady and reasonable as he says:] If you speak to me like that again, I will rip your tongue from your throat. Is my meaning clear to you?
: Er, y…yes…s-sir. I, uh, please forgive my rudeness. [Jayna smiles. Lionel straightens.]
: It's beneath mentioning, really. Now, then. Perhaps you could introduce yourself?
: I am Benjamin Gershwin, doctor of phrenology.
: It's nice to meet you, Benjamin. Did you say phrenology?
: I did indeed. Phrenology is a science of the head. You see, every man and woman's head is characterized by different bumps and ridges. Through studying these, I attempt to extrapolate the personality of the individual involved. It's dreadfully interesting, and phenomenally accurate...
: Hmm. You don't say.
: That sounds fascinating! Will you read MY head?
: Surely, young lady! Here, if you'll just lower your head, and turn to the right... Ah...oh! Quite interesting! I would surmise, unquestionably, that you are indeed a half-elf!
: An astonishing display, Benjamin. So, what was this about honest work?
: Well, at the moment, I'm looking to acquire the skulls of Jin and Xin, the famous Ren'ar Siamese twins, for my studies. They were elven debutantes who were joined at the hip their whole lives! Scandalous characters as well...stories of their exploits still float around the elite Tarantian social circles...
: And you wish to acquire them? Where can these skulls be found?
: Well, that's going to be a bit of a problem...perhaps you could help me with it? They're interned in a mausoleum in the Tarant cemetery. I'll pay you 100 gold pieces for your trouble...
: Excuse me, I must not have heard you correctly… this is your idea of honest work?
: Er, well, in a manner of speaking… I just meant… well… [He gestures limply toward Lionel and mutters an apology.]
: You want us to rob a grave for you?
: No, of course not! It's just… well, this is in the interest of scientific progress, miss. Just think about the advances that could be made from just this one little..."indiscretion." I'm sure the guards could be persuaded to agree...
: Thank you, Dr. Gershwin, but I think we'd rather stay on the right side of the law, if it's all the same to you. [He turns to go.]
: Lionel, wait. This sounds like it could be truly important in the development of this discipline.
: Indeed it would, miss.
: Couldn't we at least talk to the guards?
: [Scowling at Dr. Gershwin] Well, I suppose…
: Wonderful! Let me know when you have found the skulls!
Jayna has a new spring in her step as they leave.
: You see? We've found work already!
: Yes, well. I'm not entirely sure about this job. If the guards—
: Don't worry. I'll do all the talking, and if they don't cooperate, we'll go no further.
: Right. [He is clearly uneasy about this, but takes it no further as they continue their walk to the steamrail.]
They arrive at the cemetery in short order. It's expansive, certainly, but nothing like as large as Jayna thought it would be. Lionel knows why, but says nothing. The vast majority of the dead are in the catacombs far below; with the exception of certain public and historic figures, most bodies remain in their plots for only a few years, long enough to be picked clean, before they are exhumed, divided by shape, and shelved in their final resting place. Unflinching though Jayna has been in the face of injury and death, he's not at all sure that she would find this a pleasant anecdote.
: Excuse me, sir... This is rather awkward, but I was wondering if I could speak with you regarding the tomb of the Ren'ar siamese twins?
: What, again? Look, if you're from the press, you're wasting your time. The captain's made his official statement, and that's all you're going to get.
: I'm sorry? No, I'm not from the press. Why? Have they been asking questions?
: You haven't heard? There's a resurrectionist about. Someone broke into their tomb and stole the skulls. Just the skulls! I ask you...
: Why, that's horrible... I, er, was going to pay my respects. Just where is their tomb, sir?
: Over there. [He points.] You can go on in, if you like. The rest of the remains have been relocated for their protection.
: Thank you, sir.
Jayna and Lionel stroll over to the tomb, the door of which has been broken in. Inside, the dust has been disturbed and the stone coffin lid has been cracked and shifted. There's a terrible miasma about the place, a stench of rot and a pall of rats so strong that Lionel nearly gags. Peering inside the coffin, something small and black nearly blends in with the shadows, but catches Lionel's eye. He pulls it out.
: “The Wellington...” That's the Gentlemen's club just up the road...
: Well, what are we waiting for?
: Do we really want to get involved in this?
They soon arrive at the nearby Wellington Gentlemen's Club. It's a stately stone building with small windows atop the walls. A lone human man in a white dinner jacket waits outside, his arms crossed over his chest. He greets Lionel and Jayna as they approach.
: Hello, sir. Madam. May I help you?
: Yes, might we go inside?
: Ah. You may, sir. But I'm afraid that this is a gentleman's club. No offense, madam, but females are not allowed in.
: [To Lionel] It's all right. Go ahead and see what you can learn. I'll wait here.
: We only ask you conduct yourself in a gentlemanly manner, sir. [He sniffs.] As best you can. Allow me to open the door. [He does so.] Please...enjoy yourself.
: Thank you, I will.
Lionel looks around the club. It's a single, opulent room with sturdy, ornate furniture and smoke-stained wallpaper. A bar runs along the right wall, a lounge on the left. A few of the patrons are making small talk; the rest are engrossed in their drinks or their newspapers. The crowd seems mostly human, though a stocky dwarf in fine clothes has a small audience next to one of the sofas and an elf in dark, hooded robes leans against the far wall, blowing smoke at the ceiling. No one looks his way. Lionel walks straight to the bar. He sits down and signals to the barman with one finger. The man next to him, a human wearing a smoking jacket, absolutely reeks of alcohol.
: Good afternoon.
: Huh? What? What ish it? Hic! Who you be?
: Name's Lionel. And you, sir?
: [He stares intently at Lionel, trying unsuccessfully to focus his eyes.] Why, I am the honorable -hic! Shir M...Matt de Cesare, esh-hic-quire. Now, if you'll excushe me...
Lionel pays for his whisky and casts an eye about the bar, paying particular attention to the shoes and knees of the patrons. His eyes alight once again on de Cesare, whose shoes are in need of a good shine. The man has set down his martini glass and taken a cigarette from a silver case. He is patting his pockets and muttering to himself.
: Pardon me, sir. Is this yours? [He shows the human the matchbook from the tomb.]
: Huh? [His eyes seem to clear for a brief moment.] I do not know what, uh...thash not, uh, mine. Leave me alone. Hic!
: Just being polite, friend...
: Toss off, half-orc! I don't -hic- wanna haf ta get violent wit you, or call the guardsh...[he turns back to the bar, ignoring Lionel, but his right hand reaches into his jacket, patting for his matches.]
: Right. Right. Fine. I've had about enough of this. [He downs his whisky, stands up, and walks out the door in one fluid motion.]
: Well? Did you find the owner?
: [His voice betrays his agitation.] Doesn't matter. This is over. We're not getting any more involved in this.
: Damn it, Jayna! [She flinches, but holds his gaze.] Do you have any idea what happens when the guards here talk to a half-orc?
: No. I don't. What happens?
: They find a crime to go with him. Jayna, I can't
get involved in this. You understand?
: Yes. I do.
: [His tone softens.] I'm sorry, I—
: It's fine. Let's tell Dr. Gershwin. [She starts walking away without looking at Lionel.]
: Jayna, I really didn't—
: Come on.
Jayna leads the way back toward the university with quick steps, keeping her eye on the distant towering bulk of the dormitories. Her eyes thus occupied, she walks right past the steamrail station.
: That was—
: I'd rather walk. We should be saving our money.
As they pass through Kensington park, an unfamiliar half-orc with a scar over his eye catches Lionel by the elbow. Jayna turns and waits when she hears them speak.
: 'Ello, bloke! I go by the name of Thom Grak. Say, you wouldn't happen to know a fellow name of de Cesare, would ya?
: [Lionel glances about suspiciously.] Yes, I've met him.
: You have? Would you know where I can find that old bugger?
: Is there a reason you're asking?
: He was meant to meet me here at the kiosk over an hour ago. We have some business to take care of.
: Well, he's at the Wellington Gentlemen's club, sauced to the gills.
: Good show! Could you deliver a message to him for me? Tell him to get his bum over here. I'd rather not, uh, go try to find him in the club myself on the off chance he's already making his way over here. I'd hate to miss him...
: Do I look like a messenger to you? I don't have time for this.
: Would 20 gold change your mind?
: Ha! Good on you, miss! Remember, it's the kiosk at Kensington Broadway. I'll give you the money when you get him over here. [Jayna nods and starts walking back toward the club, again not looking back. Grak watches her go and gives Lionel a salacious wink.]
: [Defeated] Fine. We're off, then. [He hurries after her.]
Jayna installs herself once more next to the entrance to the club. Lionel turns toward her, sees her expression, and turns away to talk his way inside once more. His usual cursory examination finds most of the same crowd in the bar. A human gentleman in a brown overcoat follows him in and walks over to the nearest sofa, where he picks up a newspaper. Lionel proceeds to the bar, where the inebriate he came for is still installed on the same stool.
: De Cesare?
: Wh— You again? I thought I told you to hit the -hic- bricks.
: I have a message for you from Thom Grak.
: Oh? [He barely looks at Lionel, but sinks down in his seat slightly and puts his right hand in his jacket, apparently fumbling for a cigarette.] What does that old tosser want now? Hic!
: He's waiting at the Kensington Broadway kiosk for you.
: Oh he is, eh? [He lurches forward, and steadies himself on the bar at the last minute before falling on top of Lionel.] Shtupid -hic- bourgeoisie businesshman! Let him wait!
: Right. Well, he told me...to-- Get down!
In the corner of his eye, Lionel watched the man in the overcoat slowly lower the paper, saw the glint of metal rising over it, and now pushes de Cesare's arm to get him moving as he himself drops to his knees from the stool. A knife shudders into the wall past the bar at eye height as de Cesare rises and expertly pulls a pistol from inside his jacket.
: You're a dead man, de Cesare! You're a fucking corpse!
The only answer de Cesare seems inclined to offer is a bullet between the fellow's eyes. As the body slumps to the floor and the club descends into pandemonium, he grabs Lionel's collar in one fist and pulls their faces into close proximity.
: Who in the name of Halcyon's balls are you?! Why did you lead him here to me? Talk quickly, before I kill you!
: What? What are you talking about?
: You're one of Grak's men, aren't you?
: I met him on the street. He asked me to do him a favor, that's it.
: [He pauses for a moment, looking at Lionel.] I may be insane, but I believe you. Now get out of here, before I change my mind. [He releases the half-orc.]
: Wait - what was all this about?
: [He looks around. No one's approached him yet, and the club is still in an uproar.] We can't talk here...follow me.
Lionel nods and Sir Matt de Cesare leads him out to the street, where Jayna bounds up to him.
: Is everyone alright? I heard a gunshot. What happened? Who's this?
: Come this way. I'll explain when I know. [He sees two guards running in their direction.] Quick!
They walk briskly around the building and stop at the cemetery wall. De Cesare hoists himself up to look over it and scans the street before slumping against the wall of the club.
: Okay, we can talk here.
: What is going on here? Who are you?
: Who's this?
: A friend. Jayna, this is Sir Matt de Cesare. It was him who fired the gun, and this [he flourishes the matchbook from his pocket] belongs to him. Now he's going to tell us just what the hell this is all about. [He turns expectantly to de Cesare.]
: [He stares at Jayna a moment, then seems to make a decision.] Well, this may sound strange to you, but I'm here in Tarant to recover the skulls of the Ren'ar Siamese twins. Their skulls are evidence that...well, I will fill you in if you bring them to me.
: You mean you don't have them?
: I'm afraid not.
: But the matchbook--
: Just what is your interest in the skulls, exactly?
: We were sent to retrieve them for Dr. Gershwin, the phrenologist at Tarant University. [Lionel shuts his eyes and sighs through his nose.]
: A phrenologist? Wait. Gershwin… Is that a gnomish name?
: Why, yes. He is a gnome.
: By gods… Then they don't have them… please, whatever happens, you can't give the skulls to him. I'm begging you!
: Why not? What the hell is all this?
: I can't tell you. At least, not yet. I need to know I can trust you first. But please, I know this is a lot to accept, but you must bring me the skulls if you find them.
: But Dr. Gershwin said…
: I don't know the man, I don't know anything about him. But if what I suspect about him is right, it would be disastrous to give him the skulls. And if I'm wrong, then you would be putting him in great danger.
: I don't know…
: Please! I swear, I'll tell you what I know if you just do this for me...
: Do you have any idea where we would find these skulls?
: Well, that's where this becomes difficult. The skulls had been interred in a mausoleum in the Tarant cemetery, but when I went looking for them, they were already gone. I… have reason to believe they are still in Tarant, in a warehouse somewhere, waiting to be shipped out.
: This is absurd…
: Is this really that important?
: The fate of the world may well depend on who finds the skulls first.
: [She turns to Lionel, her face a mask of confused interests.] Lionel?
: Oh… very well. We'll try to find them. [His brows furrow and his voice deepens almost to a growl] But if this turns out to be some sort of joke...
: I can't thank you enough. Please, return as soon as you can.
Lionel begins walking briskly down the street toward the river.
: Lionel? Where are you going?
: The warehouse district.
: But we don't know where they might be stored. I mean, he wasn't even sure they're still in the city.
: I know. But there was something else in that tomb.
: Just... Follow.
They soon arrive at a long, squat brick warehouse almost indistinguishable from the others.
: This is it.
: How do you know?
: Trust me. [He looks around to make sure no one's watching, hefts a rock, and smashes the lock on the door.]
The half-orc immediately slams the door inward and is rewarded by half a second of shock on the face of a full-blooded ogre within. This is time enough to aim, and the great oaf clutches its chest and releases a most satisfying wail as it begins hobbling toward the door. A high-pitched shriek off to the side alerts Lionel to his primary target. There stands a creature with a spine like a prawn, a hairy, lumpen form so hideous that even Lionel looked on it with disdain, a snuffling, plague-ridden snout holding incisors long enough and thick enough and sharp enough to sever wrists whole. A creature that reeks so powerfully, he could smell it from the street in passing. Without a moment's notice, the were-rat is upon him, its massive flanks propelling it halfway across the room before Lionel can react, its claws raking his already-disfigured face. He empties his revolver into the beast until it lets out its final gasp, then turns back to its accomplice, which has cornered Jayna. The ogre can't strike as hard as it normally could with its gaping wound, but she's fortunate all the same that she manages to dodge its blows and strike with her sword. One more round in the lummox's heaving back, and it falls to the floor, sputtering blood. Jayna stares at Lionel, wide-eyed and panting.
: Are you all right?
: [She pants for a few seconds, then nods.] What was—
: A were-rat. They used to be pretty common in the city, but not any more. Best not to think too much about it.
: Well, let's have a look at you. [She inspects the scratches on his face, cleans them with a stinging solution out of her pack, and pronounces them nothing to worry about.] And you're sure this is the place?
: Positive. Let's find the skulls.
The foul corpse of the wererat has a pouch tied to its waist containing a couple of hundred coins. The crates and barrels of the warehouse turn up several useful curiosities, among them a hunting rifle, a suit of chainmail that had clearly been worn by the wererat in human form, and two skulls, yellowed but well-preserved.
: Not so pointless after all. This is enough for the train fare there and back.
: Lionel, how did you know the skulls would be here?
: ...Tracking. You just need to know what to look for. [She looks on him admiringly. He sniffs, grimaces, and turns away.] Well, now. You have a choice to make. The phrenologist or the fop?
: ...I think we should take them to de Cesare. He really seemed not to trust Dr. Gershwin, and I'm not sure why, but I believe he had a reason.
: Fair enough. Let's go.
: Yes... You know, that was amazing shooting. You really are very brave.
: [Lionel's ears burn and he doesn't look at Jayna, but he smiles despite himself.] Er, thank you.
In just a few minutes, they're back at the club. Sir Matt de Cesare hasn't moved except to start furtively smoking a cigarette. He flicks it away as he sees them approach.
: What news?
: We've brought you the skulls. [Lionel holds them up for him to examine.]
: Excellent! This is the break we've been looking for.
: You were going to tell us what's going on here, now?
: I can tell you what I know, and a man named Arthur Tyron can fill you in on the rest.
: Please, continue.
: Some years ago, bizarre breeding experiments were begun in secret which would eventually effect the balance of power here in Tarant. The Ren'ar twins were the first viable offspring produced by these experiments. Their skulls are simply the first piece in a long chain of evidence we are gathering to expose them all!
: [Jayna listens with rapt attention.] Who is doing this?
: What was the purpose of these experiments?
: No. I have told you all I dare...Tyron can fill you in on the rest. I need you to bring him the skulls, if you would. It would be far to dangerous for me to search him out...
: We'll do it!
: Good! He was in Black Root, last I knew. Perhaps you can still find him there. Go by the train, before they know where to look for you.
: I can't say a word about it. Listen. If you need to contact me after you've found him, you can leave a message with the doorman at the Wellington.
: We have business near there, anyway. We'll be on our way, then.
: Thank you. And good luck...
Lionel sits staring out of the window, blankly watching the scenery roll past at an astonishing speed. He'd heard that these locomotives could move as fast as sixty-five miles in an hour, and he is ready to credit it. He and Jayna have a compartment to themselves. Every traveler is equal on a train, even him. His wooden seat is hard and uncomfortable, and the train shakes so wretchedly that his thoughts keep turning unintentionally inwards and focusing on elements of his anatomy better left unmentioned. When he is not so occupied, his attention wavers between the weight of his revolver in his inner jacket pocket, a grim sense of foreboding about the morning paper, and a difficult conversation he foresees in the immediate future. He has been particularly taciturn on this journey, but now he looks up and begins to speak.
: Jayna... I've been thinking... Confound it...
He takes a deep breath and starts again.
: Jayna, here's how it is. The mine deed cost me 250 coin, and this little train ride set us back another 150 each way. I'm not exactly a wealthy man, Jayna, as you may have noticed. Work doesn't come easy these days. Now, I feel for Sarah. I do. I think she's been dealt a bad hand, and more's the pity it should happen to such a nice girl. But she can't afford to give us one damned gold piece, however thankful she feels. Her brother offered me 500, and I'm pretty sure I can talk him round to covering my expenses, too. Now, look, this isn't the way I want it, but it's just the way it is. A man like me can't go around risking his reputation and his livelihood playing hero to every rustic whistle stop in Arcanum. I--
The door to the compartment opens and Jayna comes in. Lionel lapses into silence once more.
: You were right, the dining car's not worth a visit. Here. [She hands him a dry meat pie, then turns her attention back to the window, the Morbihan plains rolling past at an astonishing pace.] It's incredible.
They do not speak again for the remainder of the journey.